TIME Economy

5 Stats That Explain the Super Wealthy

The Davos World Economic Forum 2015
Jason Alden—Bloomberg/Getty Images Aliko Dangote, billionaire and chief executive officer of Dangote Group, pauses during a session on day two of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2015.

From Nigerian billionaires to Russian oligarchs, numbers that explain how wealth works in politics

The world will always be divided into “the haves and the have nots,” but lately seems the ‘haves’ are capturing more and more of the world’s wealth. Yet, even the super wealthy are feeling the impact of political turmoil. Here are five stats that explore the plight—and flight—of the world’s richest.

1. Nigeria’s super rich

For a country that relies on oil for almost 70% of state revenue, crashing prices spell trouble. The stock index dropped 40% in 2014, while the currency has lost a fifth of its value over the last six months. But the person who has been hit hardest is the person who can most afford it. Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, earned Forbes’ “Biggest Loser” title—his wealth has fallen the most of anyone on earth in dollar terms. Yet he still has a $14.7 billion fortune and his companies account for a quarter of the market capitalization of the Lagos stock market. Even as youth unemployment and corruption remain staggeringly pervasive, economic growth has enriched the country’s elites. Nigeria’s population of high net worth individuals grew 44% between 2007 and 2013.

(Forbes, Forbes, Financial Times, New World Wealth)

2. Oil prices and sanctions hit Russia

Russia has also been battered by tanking oil prices, and sanctions have had an outsized impact on Russia’s wealthiest and those closest to Vladimir Putin (who are often one and the same). The country lost the most billionaires in 2014, down to 88 from 111. Between February and December of 2014, the combined wealth of the country’s 20 richest people shrank by 30%. In other words, .0000001% of Russia’s population lost $73 billion—a sum on par with the annual GDP of neighboring Belarus. It’s no wonder India overtook Russia for third place on the billionaires list last year.

(Forbes, Forbes, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, World Bank)

3. The millionaire exodus

Millionaires have been voting with their feet. Between 2003 and 2013, 76,200 Chinese millionaires emigrated, representing 15% of China’s total and the largest exodus of millionaires of any country. Over the same span, 27% of Indian millionaires, some 43,400 people, left as well. In third place, France saw 13% of its millionaire population leave, perhaps due to what they viewed as excessive taxation on the wealthiest. Russia came fifth in sheer number of departing millionaires; they accounted for 17% of Russia’s millionaire population. Where are they all heading? Mainly the UK, the U.S., Australia and Singapore. The number of UK fast-track or Tier 1 visas (which require a $3 million investment in British assets) provided to Russians increased nearly 70% last year.

(CNBC, Business Insider, Bloomberg)

4. Billionaire cities

A few years ago, New York surpassed Moscow as the top city by billionaire population. Hong Kong, London, and Beijing round out the rest of the top five. Yet, unlike Moscow, where 80% of Russia’s billionaires reside, New York has less than a sixth of America’s. The United States spreads the wealth: 11 U.S. cities have 11 or more billionaires. California itself has 131—if it were a country, it would have more billionaires than any country except the U.S. and China.

(Forbes, Knight Frank, Forbes)

5. Big money in Chinese politics

While many of China’s wealthiest may have left the country, there are plenty who still fill the highest ranks of government. More than one in seven of the 1,271 richest Chinese are serving in Parliament or its advisory body. These 203 delegates are collectively worth over $460 billion. For some perspective, the richest representative in the U.S. government would be the 166th richest member of China’s government. Even as Chinese leader Xi Jinping clamps down on corruption and pressures elites to rein in their extravagance, China’s wealthy are still spending. Chinese now represent nearly a third of the world’s luxury sales, although roughly two-thirds of these sales take place outside the country.

(CNBC, New York Times, NBC News)

TIME Cameroon

Children Rescued From Boko Haram Can’t Remember Their Own Names

They had been freed from a camp in Cameroon

A group of children rescued from Boko Haram have no recollection of their own names or where they come from, according to an NGO official who visited the orphanage where they are being housed.

The 80 children were rescued in November from a Boko Haram camp in Cameroon, to where the militant group has extended its operations from Nigeria, the BBC reports.

“They’ve lost touch with their parents,” said Christopher Fomunyoh, a director of the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute. “They’ve lost touch with people in their villages, they’re not able to articulate, to help trace their relationships, they can’t even tell you what their names are.”

Fomunyoh told the BBC that the children, the youngest of whom was 5 and the oldest 18, were unable to speak English, French or any other local languages.

Security forces rescued the children from a supposedly Koranic school where they were being forced to learn jihadist ideology by Boko Haram, which is trying to establish a hard-line Islamic state in northern Nigeria.

[BBC]

TIME Nigeria

Boko Haram Under Attack by 4 Armies Led by Nigeria

Chad Boko Haram Flintlock
Jerome Delay—AP Chadian troops participate along with Nigerian special forces in an exercise in Mao, Chad on March 7, 2015.

Even if the allies hit Boko Haram hard militarily, it will still have the potential to launch terrorist attacks

With army trucks bristling with weapons, and soldiers boasting that they would catch Boko Haram militant leader Abubakar Shekau alive, military forces from Niger and Chad crossed into northeastern Nigeria on Monday to open new fronts in a war against an insurgent group that has wreaked havoc in the region for several years. Residents from both Nigeria and Niger described door-rattling booms of fighter-jet missiles and the stutter of artillery fire as troops zeroed in on Boko Haram enclaves near the border. Nigerian army spokesman Colonel Sami Usman Kukasheka crowed to BBC World that the joint effort “will definitely see to the end of the insurgency in Nigeria.” What he didn’t say is that it is unlikely to be anytime soon.

Analysts estimate that Boko Haram controls some 20,000 sq km in Nigeria’s northeast, forming a rough square bordered by Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Though Boko Haram originates in Nigeria, much of its strength comes from its ability to cross borders in pursuit of sanctuary. No longer. The multipronged effort, with troops massing on all three sides, appears designed to encircle the group, cutting off supply lines and escape routes, says J. Peter Pham, a Nigeria expert and director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center. It’s not the first time the four countries have worked together to tackle Boko Haram, but this offensive, says Pham, may prove to be the most effective yet. With forces from Niger advancing into Nigeria for the first time, from two different locations on the northwestern border, and with Chadian and Cameroonian forces holding the frontier to the northeast and southeast, Boko Haram fighters have nowhere to go. “The noose is tightening around Abubakar Shekau, and if one looks at the map, it is clear that the ultimate goal is to isolate Boko Haram from” cross-border sanctuaries, says Pham.

With Chadian air support and Cameroonian military backup, Nigeria’s army has already recaptured two dozen towns from Boko Haram, a group that gained international notoriety when it kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls from a boarding school in Chibok in April. Still, it is unlikely that Nigeria will be able to fulfill the government’s promise that all territory will be liberated before general elections scheduled for March 28. Boko Haram flourishes in the dense jungles of the northeast, and its brutal campaign of kidnappings, executions and forced conscription ensures local support, even if out of duress. The Nigerian army doesn’t have the troop numbers or the equipment for a full-fledged territorial takeover, but the government cannot afford to let foreign forces lead the fight, either. One of the biggest issues in the upcoming election is security, and incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan can’t risk looking so weak that he requires outsiders to secure the country. “It is politically and psychologically important for the government that Nigerian territory is not seen as being liberated by foreign troops,” notes Pham. Instead the neighbors will play a supporting role.

Nigeria’s military spokesman cites Shekau’s pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) on Saturday as proof that the regional fight against the group is already having an impact. Liking the pledge to the desperate pleas of a “drowning man,” Colonel Kukasheka told the BBC World Service, “There is no surprise that he is craving for support from fellow terrorists across the world.”

Though Shekau is far from drowning, there may be some truth to the boast. Boko Haram and ISIS have been “circling and courting for a long time,” says Pham, noting Boko Haram’s adoption of ISIS’s black flag and anthem in the fall, and ISIS’s citation of Boko Haram’s Chibok kidnappings as precedence for its own kidnapping of Yezidi women and girls in Iraq. But the fact that both groups have been losing territory in recent weeks means they could use a little bit of a propaganda boost. “It was happening already, but the propaganda needs of both groups expedited the process,” says Pham. “For ISIS to acquire a new province, so to speak, is propaganda that benefits them both.”

That propaganda could quickly turn into a black eye for ISIS if Boko Haram does end up being wiped out through the efforts of the multinational force. ISIS has not yet responded to Shekau’s pledge, and given the current operation, leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may want to take a wait-and-see approach before he commits to a vulnerable ally. But Boko Haram, like ISIS, has two aspects: a military force that can be defeated, and a terrorist reach that is all but impossible to contain. On the same day the multinational forces started rolling into Nigeria, the provincial capital of Maiduguri was hit four times by suicide bombers. That’s something sure to make ISIS proud.

TIME Nigeria

Nigeria’s Allies Launch Joint Offensive Against Boko Haram

Nigerian special forces run past Chadian troops in a hostage rescue exercise at the end of the Flintlock exercise in Mao, Chad on March 7, 2015.
Jerome Delay—AP Nigerian special forces run past Chadian troops in a hostage rescue exercise at the end of the Flintlock exercise in Mao, Chad on March 7, 2015.

The operation comes a day after Boko Haram killed at least 50 people with a series of bomb attacks in Nigeria’s northeastern city of Maiduguri

Troops from Chad and Niger launched a joint military offensive against Islamist militants Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria on Sunday.

Neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon had already been cooperating with Nigeria on their own soil after Boko Haram launched several cross-border attacks, reports Reuters, but Sunday’s operation was Niger’s first major push into Nigerian territory to fight the militants.

“We can confirm that Chadian and Nigerien forces launched an offensive this morning from Niger. The offensive is underway,” said Colonel Azem Bermandoa, spokesman for Chad’s army.

Military sources say troops attacked the Jihadists in Nigeria’s Borno state, entering the country from Niger’s southeastern region near the border city of Diffa.

The fresh offensive comes a day after Boko Haram fighters were blamed for a series of bomb attacks in the Borno state capital Maiduguri, killing at least 50 people.

Nigeria’s government has called for greater international help to defeat the insurgency. On Friday, the African Union set up a regional force of some 10,000 troops to join the fight against the extremist group.

Boko Haram seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate in northeastern Nigeria. On Saturday, they pledged allegiance to extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS.)

[Reuters]

TIME Nigeria

Nigeria’s Kidnapped Girls Forgotten Ahead of Election Day

President Goodluck Jonathan is concentrating his energies on getting re-elected in March

It has been nearly one year since Boko Haram militants kidnapped over 270 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria. And while the terrorist group continues its attacks across Nigeria, the country’s president has been more focused on staying in power after the March 28 elections than on getting the girls back.

Local activists want that to change, demanding that the government make the disappearance of the Chibok girls the top priority. “These rallies is the reason why [the government] remembers,” organizer Funmi Adesanya told TIME’s Africa bureau chief Aryn Baker, “but I don’t think they are really doing anything about it.”

TIME Nigeria

American Missionary Kidnapped in Nigeria

The kidnapping is likely to have been carried out by a criminal gang

Armed men kidnapped an American missionary from a school in Nigeria and have demanded the equivalent of almost $300,000 for her safe return, Nigerian police said Tuesday. The Rev. Phyllis Sortor, a missionary with the Free Methodist Church in Seattle, was identified by her church as the U.S. citizen abducted from the Hope Academy compound in Kogi state.

A group of five armed men, three of whom had masks over their faces, jumped the walls of the compound and fired shots into the air at 10:30 a.m. local time Monday (4:30 a.m. ET), Kogi Police Commissioner Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi said. Speaking to NBC News…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Nigeria

Boko Haram Sends Out Child Suicide Bomber as It Loses Ground to Nigeria

Chadian soldiers on top of a truck, left, speak to Cameroon soldiers, right, standing next to the truck, on the border between Cameroon and Nigeria as they form part of the force to combat regional Islamic extremists force's including Boko Haram, near the town of Gambarou, Nigeria, Feb. 19, 2015.
Edwin Kindzeka Moki—AP Chadian soldiers on top of a truck, left, speak to Cameroon soldiers, right, standing next to the truck, on the border between Cameroon and Nigeria as they form part of the force to combat regional Islamic extremists force's including Boko Haram, near the town of Gambarou, Nigeria, Feb. 19, 2015.

The Nigerian military regains a key town lost to Boko Haram, but the insurgent group stoops to even bloodier tactics

Victory in battle is rarely a straight shot. So it goes in Nigeria, where the fight against the militant Islamist insurgent group, Boko Haram, progresses in fits and starts. Victory one day is eclipsed by defeat the next. On Saturday Feb. 21, Nigeria’s military spokesman tweeted that the army had retaken the border town of Baga after a fierce battle with the group’s fighters.

https://twitter.com/DefenceInfoNG/status/569145288818102272

But even as soldiers continued with the “mopping up” operation, residents elsewhere in the area reported scores of deaths at the hands of Boko Haram militants. And a day later, on Feb. 22, a suicide bomber killed five and wounded dozens in the northeast town of Potiskum, about 210 miles away. Though Boko Haram has yet to claim responsibility for the attack, the devastation was caused by what is rapidly becoming the group’s signature calling card: a female bomber, who, according to witnesses speaking to Reuters, looked to be no more than eight years old.

Though Boko Haram reportedly has enough firepower to successfully raid several Nigerian military garrisons, its ability to wreak terror is just as important in an asymmetric war like this one. United States intelligence officials estimate that Boko Haram has only 4000-6000 “hardcore” fighters, but a succession of attacks across Nigeria’s northeast and across the borders of its neighboring countries has nonetheless demonstrated the group’s seeming ability to be everywhere at once. The Nigerian military has a hard time keeping up, leaving many civilians caught in the middle. Few support Boko Haram, which has left a trail of massacres and abductions as it seeks to impose on the region its interpretation of Islamic law, but even fewer dare stand up to the group without a military to protect them.

Help is on the way: the African Union has pledged 8,750 soldiers, police and humanitarian officials to the fight. Already Nigeria’s neighbors Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, have entered the fray, defeating the insurgents in border areas and denying Boko Haram the sanctuary it once enjoyed. But Nigeria’s military is faced with an uncompromising deadline. National Security Advisor Sambo Dasuki has pledged that Boko Haram will be defeated before the March 28 presidential election, which was postponed from February for security reasons. That gives the army six weeks to do what it hasn’t been able to achieve in the six years since the insurgency launched.

Regaining Baga is a start. Strategically speaking, the fishing town offers little military advantage. Symbolically, it packs a punch. Boko Haram took Baga on January 3, in a surprise raid that sent soldiers tasked with protecting a nearby military garrison fleeing for their lives. Over the course of the next few days Boko Haram methodically rampaged through neighboring villages, killing and burning everything in its path. At the time, local officials estimated that up to 2000 residents had been killed; a government assessment put the number at 150. With access to the area limited and phone coverage all but cut off, it was impossible to establish which number was closer to the truth. Satellite imagery released by Amnesty International a few days later showed widespread devastation that gave credence to the higher count, though it is also possible that many residents fled before Boko Haram arrived.

Still, the discrepancy was largely interpreted as a government effort to downplay the insurgency’s strength, and the military’s failure. Now that Baga has been re-taken, investigators will be able to get closer to the truth of what actually happened. That may be of little comfort to those who lost loved ones and property in the massacre, but in the battle of messaging, it’s a start.

TIME Nigeria

Boko Haram Vows to Disrupt Elections as President Is Deserted by Key Supporter

A boy walks near a banner campaigning for Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan along a street at Campus Square neighborhood in Lagos, Feb. 2, 2015.
Akintunde Akinleye—Reuters A boy walks near a banner campaigning for Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan along a street at Campus Square neighborhood in Lagos, Feb. 2, 2015.

Goodluck Jonathan needs more time to take on Boko Haram and win the election

It’s never a good sign when your political mentor starts publically questioning your decisions as President, particularly if he is the man who laid the path to the presidency in the first place. For weeks Nigeria’s revered former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, had been quietly criticizing his former protégé and current President Goodluck Jonathan’s ability to combat the Boko Haram militant group. But when the Nigerian election commission announced a six-week postponement of elections to allow for a military operation against the insurgents, Obasanjo turned up the volume, publically insinuating that it was a ploy for the President to cement his position in the face of the rising popularity of his rival Muhammadu Buhari before endorsing Buhari in an interview with the Financial Times.

The elections come at a difficult time for Nigeria. Boko Haram has increased its attacks, and its terrain, over the past few months, expanding into neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon and raising fears for the stability of Africa’s biggest economy and most populous nation. Boko Haram has killed an estimated 13,000 Nigerians, and has abducted more than 1,000 others, including 257 schoolgirls in April. Despite a promised military operation, Nigeria’s ongoing political squabbling continues to prevent a unified national response. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has pledged to disrupt the polls, laying the groundwork for a fraught election season.

It was really only a matter of time before the divorce between Jonathan and Obasanjo became final. No one, however, expected it to be quite so theatrical. In front of a gathering of journalists and members of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, Obasanjo handed his membership card to a colleague to be torn up and announced his resignation from the party he helped found in 1999, when he became the country’s first post-dictatorship President. “Henceforth I will only be a Nigerian. I am ready to work with anybody regardless of his or her political affiliation,” he said in a statement that ran in national newspapers on Tuesday. That small act of petulance is likely to have far-reaching consequences for Jonathan’s campaign for re-election, already under strain from wide-ranging accusations of incompetence and weakness. While Obasanjo declared that he would not join the opposition, many will interpret it as an endorsement for the party of Buhari.

Shekau pledged to disrupt the elections “at any cost” also on Tuesday in a 15-minute video released via the group’s new Twitter account. “This election will not be held even if we are dead,” he vowed, speaking in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria. As if to prove his point, two suicide attacks killed at least 38 people on the same day the video was released. Two days before, on Feb. 15, a female suicide bomber killed at least 10 passersby in a market, also in the country’s northeast.

The number of Boko Haram attacks has increased dramatically since the announcement of the postponement of the elections, which were slated for Feb. 15. As a result, few Nigerians believe the leadership’s assurances that the insurgency will be defeated in time to allow residents of the northeast, where it is strongest, to vote. “Even if the ongoing military operations smash all the insurgents’ camps, as promised, Boko Haram has shown itself to be highly mobile, tactically adaptable and considerably resilient,” says Nnamdi Obasi, Nigeria researcher for the International Crisis Group. “So it is doubtful that the government will achieve an environment sufficiently secure for displaced persons to return home and for the electoral agency to conduct polls all over the northeast on March 28.”

The governments of Chad, Niger and Cameroon have promised to lend a hand by sending troops, but they are finding themselves bogged down with combatting Boko Haram on home turf. Shekau, in previous videos, pledged to attack any country that went after Boko Haram. He has followed through, threatening leaders by name in his video broadcasts, and sending forces and suicide bombers across the borders of all three countries. Cameroon’s army announced on Feb. 17 that it had killed 86 Boko Haram fighters and detained a further 1,000 suspected supporters. On the same day, Niger’s government claimed to have killed 200 rebels, detained 160 supporters, and averted a suicide bomb attack in the town of Diffa. Such assertions are difficult to corroborate. If true, they are an alarming indication of Boko Haram’s reach and strength. Obasanjo may have criticized Jonathan’s inability to manage Boko Haram, but if the combined forces of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon can’t defeat the insurgency with international support, then his successor may also find it difficult.

TIME conflict

Boko Haram Is Hardly a New Phenomenon in Nigeria

Nigerian local hunters 'vigilantes' to fight against Boko Haram
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images A local hunter armed with a gun is seen on a pick up truck in Yola city of Adamawa State in Nigeria before he moves to the border region between Nigeria and Cameroon to support the Nigerian army in fighting with Boko Haram militants on Dec. 06, 2014.

The surprise is it’s in formal rebellion against western education its members never received

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

The raging Boko Haram terrorist campaign poses the most potent existential threat to Nigeria since the country emerged out of civil war in 1970. Almost daily, insurgents fired up by a strange concoction of Islamist ideology and ascetic inclinations rampage through villages in the Nigerian northeast, killing, burning, and maiming. The Nigerian army’s law-and-order approach is foundering, and the insurgency waxes stronger, spreading to new territories within Nigeria and in the neighboring countries of Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.

How did it come to this, and how can one situate Boko Haram in a longer historical tapestry of religious revivalism, societal convulsion, social marginality, and colonialism in this region of Nigeria? To understand Boko Haram, one must detour to precolonial and colonial histories of Northern Nigeria and locate the coextensive influences of pre-colonial Islamism and British colonial education policy.

An Ironic Product of Western Educational Lag

Translated from Hausa, Boko Haram means Western education is forbidden. The name references the opposition of the group to Western education and other artifacts of Western modernity. To understand this theological rejection of Western education, one must probe how the sociological currents that produced Boko Haram are ironically rooted in a history of Western education, or lack thereof, in Northern Nigeria.

Northern Nigeria became a British Protectorate in 1900 and colonial control was consolidated between then and 1907. Wary of alienating Muslim elites whom the colonizers were cultivating as allies in their rule, British colonial authorities decreed a ban on Christian missionary activities in the Muslim emirates, cutting off these regions from the missionary educational enterprise, the major instrument for the spread of Western education in much of colonial Nigeria and Africa.

The spread of Western education in the emirates was further hampered by another factor: the widespread suspicion that Western education was a carrier of un-Islamic ideas. Some emirs told Frederick Lugard, the first British governor of Northern Nigeria, that they didn’t want missionary educators in their domains because they feared that the missionaries would try to convert their Muslim subjects to Christianity.

This attitude was tempered over time by a realization on the part of some of the colony’s aristocrats and regular colonial subjects that secular education was important to socioeconomic mobility in colonial society. But colonial authorities ignored this attitudinal shift and did not build many schools in Northern Nigeria because of a racist ideology that questioned the value of liberal (as opposed to vocational) Western education for African “natives.” Specifically, British colonial officials in the North believed that liberal education would corrupt Northern Nigerians, turning them into agitators for rights in colonial society like it had purportedly done to the indigenous intelligentsia of Southern Nigeria. The British despised members of this embryonic indigenous elite with a passion and described them in colonial sources in derogatory terms as confused, troublesome, undignified black Englishmen wannabes. Frederick Lugard and other colonial officials were determined that the Northern, Muslim-majority half of the country would not be afflicted with this dangerous virus of educational modernization.

The foundation of the educational lag in the Muslim-majority states of postcolonial Northern Nigeria was thus laid by colonial policy, which was founded on the theory that a rapid expansion of Western education would damage the minds of benighted “native” Muslims and turn them against colonization.

This foundational problem has been compounded over the years by the inattention of postcolonial governments in the northeastern and northwestern states to education and, more recently, by a resurgence of negative attitudes to Western education, itself a product of the influx into Northern Nigeria of global Islamist ideologies denouncing or devaluing secular education as a source of societal moral degeneration, a contention eerily reminiscent of the claims of old Islamic revival movements in the region who similarly lashed out at colonial modernity and boko, or secular Western education.

The product of this Western educational lag in the northeast is the vast army of youths who, lacking credentialed Western education, are marginal in Nigeria’s secular economy and are thus available for Boko Haram to mobilize with temporal and spiritual promises of relevance.

Homegrown Islamist Dissidence

In addition to the British inattention to Western education in the Muslim majority areas of colonial Northern Nigeria, the Muslim rulers of these regions, inheritors of centuries old Islamic traditions and descendants of Muslim reformers of the early nineteenth century Sokoto Caliphate, feared that Western education would undermine their authority, dishonor the legacy of this history of Muslim revival, and spread practices offensive to widely held beliefs about Muslim piety.

A similar invocation of a romanticized Muslim past and nostalgia for prior Muslim dissidence has become part of Boko Haram’s rhetorical repertoire. In a recent video, the group showed archive footage of a battle between British soldiers of conquest and forces of the Sokoto Caliphate at the turn of the 20th century, suggesting that Boko Haram propagandists equate their struggle with the earlier struggle of the Sokoto Caliphate against British colonialism and its secular institutions.

Boko Haram has often invoked the Islamic Umma and caliphate founded by the Fulani jihad of Othman dan Fodio in the first decade of the nineteenth century in Hausaland as a model for its ambitions. Moreover, the group seems to have adopted the military tactics of the Jihadists of old. Like the Fulani jihadists, Boko Haram would march into a community in two columns. One would wait in the rear of the community while the other would attack from the front. Panicky villagers seeking escape would be slaughtered or captured by the rear column. This was a tactic that had been perfected by the Fulani jihadists as they raided non-Muslim communities for slaves and treasure throughout the nineteenth century.

Boko Haram belongs in a long line of Islamic insurgencies in the area. In the Sokoto caliphate, there were the Digawa, the Salihawa, the Isawa, and other sects with diverse doctrines considered heretical by the mainstream Sunni Umma. The Isawa in particular ran egregiously afoul of the existing theological consensus of the caliphate by recognizing the messianic status of Jesus and integrating that belief into their Muslim devotions.

Like Boko Haram, these groups criticized the existing Islamic order of the nineteenth century, isolated themselves, and espoused doctrines unfamiliar to the normative Sunni theologies of the caliphate. Unlike Boko Haram they were small, largely non-violent, and fizzled out over time.

In colonial times (1900-1960), some of the pre-colonial Islamic insurgent groups persisted, some coalescing into movements resistant to both the British and the emirate system of traditional and religious leadership. The Mahdist movement, an apocalyptic sect built around the idea of a coming messiah (or the Mahdi) and an end-of-time showdown between him and the forces of oppression, emerged as a fulcrum of opposition to the British colonial conquest in the first decade of the twentieth century. The British crushed the last of these major Mahdist uprisings in the village of Satiru in February 1906 and the surviving Mahdists fled to safety in different directions — to Kano, Yola, and as far as modern Sudan.

The British continued to sporadically face smaller incarnations of earlier Islamist revolts in the period of colonial rule. Some of these movements began to articulate a clear message against Christians (Nasara), a category represented in their expedient theology by the British colonialists, and against modernity, represented by British systems of rule, colonial technologies, Western education, and Muslims who adopted them.

Confronted by a changing world marked by the erosion of traditional ways of life and by a dizzying cocktail of modern goods and practices that they associated with Christian British colonizers, some Muslims responded by adopting a new form of piety designed to provoke divine solutions to what they saw as a Christian modernist invasion. Subsequent Islamist insurgent groups in Northern Nigeria have sustained this angst against modernity (zamani), which is perceived as a threat to the vision of a just, moral Islamic society. The resentment is often extended to Christians who purportedly embody this modernity, and to Muslims who allegedly imitate it or allow it to infect their Muslim devotion.

There is thus a long precedent for homegrown Islamic dissidence in Northern Nigeria. The most recognizable postcolonial manifestation of this history of insurgent Islamic revival, especially in the northeast, is the Y’antatsine movement, an Islamist Luddite sect that flourished intermittently in the northwest and northeast between 1980 and 1985. Like Boko Haram, the group isolated itself, received both persecution and patronage from some politically powerful Muslims, and then turned violent when clashes between its members and mainstream Muslims became frequent and its alternative Islamic community, or Tsangaya, was attacked by the secular authorities of the state.

Yet Boko Haram differs in several respects from Y’antatsine. The latter was a largely urban movement with easily identifiable neighborhoods such as Yan Awaki in Kano and Bulunkutu in Maiduguri. Conversely, Boko Haram is now largely a rural insurgency, although it has a presence in both rural and urban areas. Yantatsine was numerically much smaller than Boko Haram.

Y’antatsine was not a radical territorial movement intent on capturing, holding, and governing territory as part of an imagined theocratic state or caliphate; Boko Haram is. Boko Haram boasts of its allegiance and connections to global networks of jihad and Islamism, which it references in solidarity in its videos. Y’antatsine was a wholly homegrown Islamist movement with no known connections to foreign Islamist currents.

The two parallel histories of colonial educational policy and Islamic dissidence constitute the premise upon which understandings of Boko Haram’s ideology and rampage should be constructed. Yet, this historical connection alone cannot explain Boko Haram, for the group is both connected to and removed from this history. Its theological corpus is more expansive and its methods for realizing its goals more violent than previous insurgencies.

Moses E. Ochonu is Associate Professor of African History at Vanderbilt University. His most recent books are “Colonialism by Proxy: Hausa Imperial Agents and Middle Belt Consciousness in Nigeria” (2014), and “Africa in Fragments: Essays on Nigeria, Africa, and Global Africanity” (2014).

TIME Nigeria

Teenage Girl Kills 16 in Suicide Bombing in Northeast Nigeria

Boko Haram may be responsible

A teenage girl detonated a suicide bomb in a bus station in northeast Nigeria Sunday, killing 16 people, most of them children.

Although nobody has yet taken responsibility for the attack, it closely resembles others carried out by Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, which has frequently used young girls as suicide bombers in the past. The bomber detonated the bomb at the bus station in Damaturu, the capital of the Yobe state, at around 1 p.m. Many of the victims were children who had been selling peanuts or begging near the bus station, the Associated Press reports, and 30 other people were injured. Witnesses said the bomber was around 16 years old.

More: Nigeria’s Military Quails When Faced with Boko Haram

Boko Haram, which is fighting for Islamic rule in Nigeria, has been responsible for over 100,000 deaths last year and many abductions, including the high-profile kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from a secondary school in Chibok.

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